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Pharmacy students at Legislative Day

Record Attendance for Pharmacy Students’ Legislative Day

On Tuesday, Feb. 18, more than 300 pharmacy students and faculty from all seven Ohio colleges of pharmacy traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to advocate for the pharmacy profession — the largest group ever to attend Student Legislative Day. The group included 53 students and four faculty members from Northeast Ohio Medical University. This year’s event was held at the Sheraton Columbus Hotel at Capitol Square.

Sponsored by the Ohio Pharmacists Association, Student Legislative Day is an advocacy event that allows student pharmacists to meet with legislators to educate them about the value of pharmacists in the world of health care. Student Legislative Day provides students with the opportunity to learn about the current issues regarding the pharmacy profession and also allows students to meet their legislators to make those connections, because without the support from them, our profession would not be where it is today.

Getting involved

It is crucial not only for students but also for practicing pharmacists to know the importance of being involved with our state legislation. Without the successes and advances that the Ohio Pharmacists Association has made for our profession, our job market will remain stagnant or even start to decline.

The day consisted of networking among all seven schools of pharmacy, learning about all of the new House and Senate bills OPA is either in support of or against, and then speaking with the district senators and representatives within the state.

We were led by OPA’s executive director, Ernest Boyd, Pharm.D., and Antonio Ciaccia, director of government and public affairs. Without the direction of these two, our state association would not be as successful as it is. These two men led the way with fighting for provider status, which was passed in January 2019. However, the next step is using this and being able to bill for our services as pharmacists and to continue fighting the battle with the Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) to provide the best outcomes for our patients.

Pharmacy students at Legislative Day

Some other cool bills that Antonio introduced to us were House Bill 63: Prescription Drug Co-Pay Integrity Act, which prohibits PBM and insurers “clawbacks” that overcharges patients; House Bill 214: Prescription Readers, which requires health plans and Medicaid to cover the charge of prescription readers for the blind population; and House Bill 420: Emergency Dispensing, which will increase an emergency dispense for a patient from one- to three-times in a 12-month period. According to the Ohio House of Representatives website, “audio prescription label readers help those with vision impairments access the instructional information available on the labels of their prescription bottles and differentiate between different medications in a safe, reliable manner.“

These are just a few of the many bills that OPA supports and would like to pass in the next General Assembly.

Legislative Day special guest speakers included Representative Susan Manchester; Representative Scott Lipps, who chairs the House Health Committee; and Representative Randi Clites, who represents District 75 – the Portage County area. Her hometown is in Ravenna. She shared with us that her preferred pharmacy is our very own Rootstown Community Pharmacy, located on the NEOMED campus.

Knowing that we have easily accessible support from legislators so close to us is reassuring Representative Clites has extended open-door hours to meet with constituents on the issues we are passionate about. She shared that she is always open to hearing and discussing those issues.

Student Legislative Day was special, and it was one day my classmates and I are proud to have been a part of.

For those who were unable to attend, there’s another chance. The OPA Annual will take place April 3-5 at the Columbus Convention Center. All of the issues discussed at Student Legislative Day will be re-visited, along with additional topics relating to the pharmacy profession. It is another opportunity for students to k meet legislators and network with classmates and colleagues.

OPA is doing wonderful work. It is our responsibility as students, pharmacists and members of our communities to support this work and be active members who advocate for the future of our profession.

— Korie Maryo, a third-year College of Pharmacy student, contributed this reflection.